Marianne Akumu, 33, began to study the conflict in Northern Uganda to understand why fighting in her country, which had been besieged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), had continued for more than a decade. Her research led her to an interest in new methods of peace-keeping. Beyond her BL in Law from the University of Reading and ML in Governance from the University of Warwick, Akumu’s lifelong exposure to the negative effects of the LRA conflict on members of her community showed her firsthand how conflicts provoke new conflicts when those affected do not receive adequate tools and resources to rebuild their lives.

Her initial exposure of the conflict in Northern Uganda came from her best friend, who was unable to visit relatives for Christmas. This initial social context situated Akumu’s study within the context of individuals within communities, which paid off when she developed a methodology to mediate Ugandan clans and communities who live in the same areas yet may have different interests. This procedure is forward-oriented; as Akumu puts it, “when an agreement is reached between the parties on how they will continue to live peacefully, a social contract is signed [which details] all those different aspects.” 

Prior to joining the Obama Foundation Scholars program, Akumu worked on the issues of transitional justice, humanitarian response and gender for the Agency of Co-operation and Research in Development as a Transitional Justice Coordinator. Akumu credits her mother, who she says has set an example a lasting and positive impact upon the world, for her commitment to these causes; her influence helps Akumu as she works to prevent the predictable repetition of conflicts. 

“I am excited to meet and engage with young people from across the globe who are seeking and providing solutions to global problems. I look forward to the opportunity to interact with, learn from and be inspired by people creating positive change in their communities.”